Following my article in Rescue News 97 in 2005 about the serious damage caused to the southwest corner of this Northamptonshire Roman town, some better news about the site and its environs has recently begun to emerge. It had been threatened by road works, creating a new visual splay for traffic exiting a new huge logistics park located on the southern slope of the Nene valley.
Northamptonshire county Council had purchased the site and the adjacent Listed 17th century Chester Farm, with all its associated outbuildings, which would form the centrepiece of a Heritage Centre/Museum. It was also hoped that it would be used to house the County archaeological collections, which are rather dispersed at the moment, with the bulk of it in a factory unit at Daventry.
The whole site was purchased in 2004 with a view to creating a Heritage Park, with the farm buildings as a Heritage Centre. The Cabinet member for customers and communities of Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor André Gonzalez de Savage, stated that ‘the council had entered into an agreement about the site’s future when it received £1.2m of Government funding for the project in 2006’. ‘When we received the money we committed to delivering a public heritage asset to the county’.
Sadly however, in May 2010 tragedy struck. The Grade II Listed Farm house and other buildings within the complex were badly damaged by fire. However, at its recent meeting, the Cabinet approved plans to ensure the safety of this historic site, and contracts will be awarded to a contractor to make the structure of Chester House safe. This can then be put on ice until the country emerges from recession when hopefully, the original plans can be realised.
There are a number of important archaeological sites located within the area of the proposed Heritage Park: the walled roman town, a DMV (Deserted Medieval Village) and a 19th century ironstone railway and extraction site. Unfortunately, the western suburbs to the town site were destroyed when the logistics park was constructed in 2005, but, the eastern and northern suburbs should still remain intact.
Roy M Friendship-Taylor